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History and Origin

There are nine species of willow herbs which belong to the genus, Epilobium. They include the Rose Bay Willow Herb and the Great Hairy Willow Herb. These plants grow at the edges of rivers and in waste areas where houses have been torn down. They are related to the Evening Primrose (Evening Willow Herb), which contains gamma linoleic acid and has a long history of use in folk medicine.1,2

The roots and leaves of the Willow Herbs are said to have demulcent, tonic and astringent properties. Historically, it has also been used as an ointment for pediatric skin diseases including tinea capitis. Poultices made from Willow Herb are used to treat mouth ulcers, and is frequently used in Europe, particularly Germany, Austria and Eastern Europe, to treat prostate problems.1,2 Nineteenth century herbal medical texts recommend it as an anti-spasmodic in the treatment of diarrhea and other intestinal complaints. It has also been used in the treatment of whooping cough, hiccups and asthma.3

Components and Activities

Extracts from plants of the Epilobium family have been shown to contain polyphenols including flavonoids and tannins.4 Other studies have shown antimicrobial activity against several microbial classes including bacteria, yeasts and fungi.5


  1. Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. Dover Publications, 1971. P. 847
  2. html?Epilobiumangustifolium. Accessed June 6, 2006.
  3. Felter HW, Lloyd JU. King's American Dispensatory, Eighteenth Edition, Third Revision. Ohio Valley Company, Cincinnati 1898.
  4. Ivancheva S, Manolove N, Serkedjieva J, Dimov V, Ivanoska N. Polyphenols from Bulgarian medicinal plants with anti-infectious activity. Basic Life Sci. 1992;59:717-728.
  5. Battinelli L, Tita B, Evandri MG, Mazzanti G. Antimicrobial activity of Epilobium spp. Extracts. Farmaco. 2001;56:345-348.
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